Archives For January 2006

On Tap: New York Knicks

Gatinho —  January 31, 2006

Record: 14-29

Offense: 97
Defense: 101.3

Last 10 games: 2-8

What Vegas Says: Lakers -5.5

Gatinho the Scout: Seeing that the Knicks were playing the Hawks yesterday, I tuned in via “League Pass” to get a glimpse figuring that I would see the better side of this inconsistent Knick team against a club that was equally as inconsistent. The Hawks went on a 28-2 run in a third quarter low-lighted by 11 Knick turnovers. They accumulated 23 in the game and are averaging 17 per on the year. They lacked any offensive flow or shooting rythm. (Sound familiar?)

Update: But are they quitters?

Silver linings: David Lee has been joined by Jackie Butler (career high 15 points in the Hawks loss) to provide some scoring punch and energy off the bench recently for these Knicks. Channing Frye is leading rookies in 5 separate categories although the award will most likely go to the Hornet’s Chris Paul .

Did you see Scanners?: Last night Larry Brown and his coaching staff all looked as if they were candidates to have their domes explode during that miserable stretch of the third quarter. There is no way these Knicks come with the same effort against the Lakers in the Mecca, and the Lakers need to keep the hard lessons learned from the Portland and Sacramento losses in mind.

The Mecca: “It doesn’t matter if it’s Michael Jordan, or Muhammad Ali, or Sinatra, or the pope,” said George Kalinsky, the Garden’s official photographer for 38 years. “They know the stage is brighter here than anyplace else.” The Knicks faithful may be buzzing about the possibility of seeing a Kobe score-fest, but he must resist going down that road unless absolutely necessary.

Ascending: This should be a night where the Lakers can return to the form they flirted with on the 5-1 trip in the earlier part of the season. Lamar should be able to get his confidence up and bounce back from the past turnover ridden games against Detroit and Golden State. As the “initiator” of the offense he should be given more leeway in regards to his turnover total, but he must not be predictable. Teams are guessing pass and therefore are staying at home defensively setting Lamar up for the inevitable offensive fouls. The rest of the crew should be looking to return a little rhythm to their shooting.

Pony Boy: With 12 points and 9 rebounds with a 1.4 to.6 assist to turnover ratio over the last 5 games, Chris Mihm has seemingly become one of the only Lakers not named Kobe that we may begin to consider consistent. A solid 16 points and 14 rebounds against the Detroit juggernaut aided Kobe in keeping that game respectable. The rest of the guys outside of those two were 16-41.

6th Ave and W. 4th St.: Smush (and Lamar) returns home. “The Cage” has been chronicled here and in several other stories and is widely known for its out-of-bounds lines being marked not by paint but by a chain link fence.

Smush for three:The Lakers have nominated Smush to participate in the three-point shoot-out over the All-Star break.

Blog on: Check out the two excellent Knick blogs listed to the right for more insight.

-Gatinho

On Tap: Detroit Pistons

Gatinho —  January 29, 2006

Record: 36-5 (Are you kidding me?)

Nov: 11-2
Dec: 13-2
Jan: 12-1

Offense: 99.8
Defense: 90.5

Last 10 games: 10-0

When lightning strikes: Two of their last three losses are to Utah, a long defensive team. If the Lakers have a chance to stay with the Pistons today it will be accomplished on the boards. Good forward play will be integral. Okur and Kirilenko killed them. However, Utah got the benefit of catching the Pistons on the second night of a back to back for both games. The Lakers won’t have that luxury.

When you think Pistons, you think…Offense?: The Pistons are 9th in the league in scoring, up from 24th last season. They are taking higher percentage shots and sharing the ball without turning it over. Billups and Hamilton are masters of the mid range game. Take notes Smush.

Finding a happy place: Kobe has averaged 20.3 points in 20 games against the Pistons, but has reached the 30-point mark just three times. How long will he wait before he tries to take the team on his shoulders? My guess is sooner than later. Can he find a happy place that gives him enough shots while distributing at the opportune moments?

The Sage sez: “Kobe has to conform to the system and program for this to work right and the players have to step up and also score and do the right things for us to fulfill our goals to have a complete team.”

The optimist’s creed:Promise yourself- To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.” Cause here comes trouble.

Turiaf stays: Ronny will go with the Lakers on the 7 game road trip due to the fact that the NBDL affiliate, the Fort Worth Flyers, will only play 3 games over the next 15 days. Now if he just solves his “work-visa issues

Basking in the Glow…

Charley Rosen on 81: ” It should also be noted that even though Kobe’s adherence to the triangle is a “sometimes thing,” the hard-to-plot player movements inherent in the offense made it difficult for Toronto to double-team Kobe (simply because designating Smush Parker’s defender, say, to be the two-timer, won’t work if Parker is unexpectedly three passes away on any given set — and so on.)… Let’s see how many points he scores against the Pistons on Sunday.”

An Inspired Heisler: Lawrence of Arabia, Lot’s wife, Mt. Olympus. Obviously someone is still giddy over the 81 point game a week after the fact. Warm yourself in the glow. He also runs some nice smack at the folks who were less than gracious in their reaction to Kobe’s historical night.

Chris McCosky, Detroit News: “We probably can stop the debate on the leading candidate for most valuable player…. Chauncey Billups may be driving the best team in basketball, but the best player in basketball is undeniably Kobe Bryant.”

Help in the Paint: Nikolay Valuev, 7 foot, 323 pound Russian Heavyweight Champ. Imagine getting around that pick.

-Gatinho

Aloha

Kurt —  January 28, 2006

I really should be more frustrated with that narrow win over Golden State, but I’m not for two reasons: 1) it’s still a win; 2) I leave on vacation for a week Saturday, so it’s hard to be pissed about anything.

The Lakers survived a bad shooting night (45.7% eFG%) and some frustrating defensive lapses (Smush, I’m looking at you) to get the win. They did hold Golden State to 43.8% shooting, but if they had Richardson available the Lakers would never have won that game.

Now the Lakers head out on a tough road trip out East, starting with a thrashing at the hands of 8 Mile (well, it will be a thrashing if they Lakers play like they did against Golden State). That will be followed by NYC (and be sure to check out Knickerblogger), a revamped Indiana squad and some other interesting games, finishing with a couple of games in Texas. My initial thoughts are 4-3 on the seven-game trip would be good, 3-4 not the end of the world, but less than that would be frustrating.

But while the Lakers head east, I’m going west (it’s weird, the Lakers/Knicks game will start at 1:30 in the afternoon where I’ll be). Me leaving could be good for the Lakers — last time I left town, just for a weekend, Kobe went for 81. What happens when I’m gone for a week?

Gatinho will step in with some interesting posts and thoughts in my absence, keeping the conversation going here. Aloha.

On Tap: The Golden State Warriors

Kurt —  January 27, 2006

Record: 19-22 (Pythagorean 18-23), 11th seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 2-8
Laker record against Warriors: 1-0
Offensive Rating: 106.9 (14th in league)
Defensive Rating: 108.3 (20th in league)

This is going to be short, I think I’ve spent plenty of time breaking down the Lakers this week.

Last time these two hooked up the Lakers got a “decent” night out of Kobe (38 points, just 13 of 28 from the field but 11 of 11 from the line, a true shooting percentage of 57.9%) but, more importantly, this was one of the balanced games for the Lakers offense — Smush had 24, Kwame 18 and Mihm 12.

They’ll need the balance again, I’m sure the Warriors have talked about not letting Kobe beat them, since the world will be watching. Other guys should get their chances and need to hit their shots. The Warriors are not that strong up front, this should be a good night for the Laker big men.

Also, that last game the Warriors shot a lot of threes, something else that plays to the Lakers strength — they are the second best team in the NBA at defending the three. The other thing the Lakers need to do: Not get into a track meet. The Warriors want the pace up, the Lakers don’t.

Finally, let’s see if Monty, the Warriors coach, can figure out that his regular starting five is struggling, but start Fisher instead of Dunleavy and they get a lot better. If you want more Warrior info, check out The City (I thought SF was “The City” and Golden State played across the bay?).

This is a team the Lakers could be battling for one of those final playoff spots in the West, the kind of game they need to win.

We’ll go through the players in an order selected by me, with little rhyme or reason. Because I can. After the name of the player you will see his PER and his +/- (per 48 minutes), not the end-all-be-all of statistics but they start to paint a picture of contributions. By the way, there is no way this (or the previous review) could have been done without the Knickerblogger Stats Page or 82games.com, those guys are heroes of mine.

Kobe Bryant (29.1[highest PER in the NBA], +10.1): Over at the APBR Metrics board, the best Laker stats guy walking the planet, Bob Chaikin, put up some interesting numbers about Kobe:

bryant scored 30.6 pts/g over his first 19 games this season, but over his past 20 games he’s averaged 41.0 pts/g, during which he’s shot a very high Scoring FG% (combining 2pters, 3pters, and FTs) of 58.9% – 51% on 2s, 38% on 3s, and 85% on FTs, on 35 scoring opportunities per game (FGA + FTA/2), with just 3.1 turnovers/game. that’s efficient scoring…

Beyond the numbers, Kobe has this season, more than anyone I can remember since Jordan, been able to impose his will on the other team. More than just winning, he is really trying to demoralize opponents and guys trying to guard him. The important part is he is being consistent, bringing that energy every night.

Maybe better than any other player, Kobe has the skills and basketball IQ to exploit the current NBA hand-checking enforcement. He is getting to the line or 10.6 times per 40 minutes, plus taking 27.4 field goal attempts in that same time. He is also averaging 4.2 assists per 40 minutes (only Walton and Odom average more on the Lakers).

Kobe is making his living on the outside — 79% of his shots are jump shots, up from 71% last season and 66% the season before that. The reason appears to be that defenses are doubling him more quickly (sometimes tripling) and taking away the drive, so Kobe is rising above for the jumper. On those jumpers, he is shooting 46.4% (eFG%), a pretty good number, and he has become one of the best midrange shooters in the league.

Defensively, he has primarily covered opposing two guards and has kept them to a PER of 13.7, showing his defense has been good.

Lamar Odom (17.3, +4.0): Phil Jackson has asked a lot of Lamar Odom, but he is not getting the answer he wants every night.

Odom has good numbers overall, yet he gets those with combinations of good nights and some clunkers. It’s not just the scoring — there have been nights when he hasn’t scored 10 points but has been effective. However, there are nights when his leadership, as the guy with the ball in his hands coming up the court, has been both needed and missing.

When you look for the defining reason for the bad nights there seems to be no pattern (for example, his numbers in wins and losses are very similar). For the record, Odom is shooting 49.4% (eFG%) and is averaging 14.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per 40 minutes. He is grabbing 14% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor (trailing only Chris Mihm among the Lakers).

Odom is the one Laker on the roster other than #8 that has the skills to be a threat every night. For the Lakers to really grow as a team, he has to deliver night in and night out.

Smush Parker (13.4, +3.5): Smush has turned out to be quite a find, and credit needs to go to Mitch Kupchak for giving him the chance.

Smush is shooting 54% (eFG%) plus is leading the team with 2 steals per 40 minutes. He’s not just a jump shooter — 34% of his shots are coming in close to the basket, through penetration or moving without the ball and getting lay-ups. He’s shooting 38.7% from three-point range. His defense is an improvement over Chucky Atkins, in particular because Smush creates turnovers, but Smush is not a great defender — opposing point guards are shooting 50.6% (eFG%) when he is on the floor and have a PER of 20.1.

I love the energy Smush brings, but let me honest about his skill level — for a team that will go deep into the playoffs, Smush is the kind of player you want coming off the bench.

Chris Mihm (15.1, +6.3): No one statistic tells everything about a player, but I think Mihm’s +/- tells a lot — his is second best on the team behind Kobe. I think that’s because he is the second most consistent player on the Lakers. That is, when his minutes aren’t limited by foul trouble.

Admittedly, +/- tells you as much about the backup as the player you’re looking at, but the bottom line is the Lakers are a lot better when Mihm is on the floor. Under the tutelage of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he has developed a left-handed jump hook and is at his highest true shooting percentage of his career, 56.4%. He is grabbing 14.5% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, the highest percentage of any Laker. He is averaging 2 blocks per 40, best of any Laker playing regularly (Bynum is at 3.1).

The problem continues to be staying on the floor — he is averaging 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes, up from 5.1 last season. Part of it is Mihm is being aggressive going after blocks, but I think there are two parts to his foul trouble: 1) He does pick up some stupid fouls, like reaching in on guards in the backcourt or other off the ball stuff; 2) He really doesn’t get the borderline call from officials. I’m not sure why on the second part, but it’s pretty consistent, he seems to lose all 50/50 calls, and even some 60/40 ones. I have to think that will change as time goes on.

Kwame Brown (8.8. -9.1): Since he’s come back from his injury, I think Kwame has been more focused. He’s grabbed 13.8% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, and he is holding opposing centers to a PER of 12.8 — he’s played good D against the big men man-to-man. That said, his defensive rotations are often late and he can be an offensive black hole.

I’ve not fully made up my mind about him, but this is what I think right now — Kwame would make a decent backup center in the NBA. If he came off the bench, if he made $3 million per year, he’d be just another guy. Which is what he is. But because he is the number one overall pick, because he is a physical specimen, we expect more. Well, others do, I have stopped. He’s just another guy, and the Lakers tend to do better when he is on the bench.

Andrew Bynum (5.8. -9.8): All the talk is still the three minutes against Shaq a few weeks ago. It should be. And those few minutes showed where Bynum is right now. Shaq dunked over him first, because Shaq is much stronger and knew how to get position. Granted, Shaq is stronger than just about every center in the league, but Bynum needs both some time in the weight room and time for his body to grow — not to mention some on-court experience — to be consistent at the NBA level.

What’s got to make Laker fans happy was the moxie Bynum showed. After Shaq dunked on him, Bynum came down to the other end and asked for the ball. His move was right out of the “drop step for dummies” manual, but if you had seen him in the Summer Pro League in Long Beach you would know just how big a step forward that was for him. By all accounts, Bynum has a great work ethic. His defense and rebounding are already good, and next year he should get the chance to display those skills more. If he continues to improve like he has, he can be a very good center in this league. He needs to keep working.

Devean George (11.3, +4.0): George has been a solid player off the bench, which frankly is about what we should expect out of him. I think his positive number (same as with Walton’s) is that he fits well with what the triangle wants to do on offense, and he knows how to work inside it. That said, I wish he would attempt fewer threes, he is shooting just 28.2% from beyond the arc.

Another key is George is playing good defense off the bench, as reflected in his opponent PER of 13.3 (remember, the league average is 15).

Luke Walton (10.4. +0.4): When Luke Walton is on the floor, the Laker offense runs much more smoothly. His passing skills reward guys who work without the ball, so you see guys work without the ball.

The problem is he is shooting the ball poorly — just 37.1% (eFG%), well below his career average of 46.1%. Specifically, he is shooting just 36.1% on jump shots, and that accounts for 85% of his chances. He is shooting 25% from three-point range. He’s only shooting 45% in close. He needs to develop a consistent outside shot or teams will continue to back off him when he has the ball and dare him to shoot. His defense also continues to be average, at best.

Brian Cook (15.1, +0.1): He can shoot the ball, shooting 53.5% from the field (second best on the Lakers), 43.8% from beyond the arc (best on the team). I love when he and Kobe play the pick-and-pop, it can be almost impossible to defend.

He seems more comfortable away from the basket, and that has affected his rebounding — he grabs 9.8% of the available rebounds when on the floor, a low percentage for someone who plays the four. His defense against opposing fours also is not that great — opponent fours have a PER of 17 against him — and that may be a reason he seems to get fewer minutes from Phil depending on matchups. He brings a lot to the floor that Kwame doesn’t (like an offensive game), but Kwame is better on defense, especially in the post area.

Sasha Vujacic (8.4, +0.2): Credit Sasha for becoming a solid defensive player — it was a weakness when he entered the league and things didn’t look much better at the Summer Pro League. But he is getting Phil’s trust because he is playing good defense off the bench, opposing point guards have a PER of just 13.3 against him.

He is shooting 35.5% from beyond the arc but has an eFG% of just 44.3% — he is the rare player that is shooting better on jump shots (45.6%) than inside on lay-ups and other shots close to the basket (36.8%).

He’s developing into a solid off-the-bench player, he just needs to be more consistent with his shot. And, I guess, stay away from the basket.

Von Wafer (1.4, -18.3): Very athletic, but he needs to spend time in the D League. He needs to play to get some polish and experience, and that’s not going to happen with the Lakers right now.

Artest in the West

Kurt —  January 26, 2006

The second part of the Laker midseason report card, focusing on the players, will go up later today or tomorrow morning at the latest. That said, there was some big news out west to discuss.

How good does Artest make the Kings? Good question. I thought Tom at Sactown Royalty had a good line the other day, “Obviously, this team needed something. An elite defender/frightening psychopath is certainly something.”

The championship window appeared closed in Sacramento, and this move may or may not pry it back open. But this gives the Kings a couple of years with a Bibby/Artest/Abdur-Rahim/Miller core — that is pretty formidable. If they can fill in the right pieces around it, and if Artest plays for two seasons without a meltdown, this could make them contenders again. If not, they have to blow the thing up and start over, which is basically where they were headed anyway. The Kings rolled the dice on this one, but it’s not a bad bet.

If nothing else, this should be fun to watch.

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Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think: Vince Carter is down on Kobe because Kobe is not a team player.

(Note to Alanis Morissette: That is irony, not rain on your wedding day.)

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One of the best basketball interviews I’ve read in a long time, with defensive guru Hank Egan, is up at probasketballnews.com, and is worth a read.

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One other housekeeping note I’ve been meaning to get to. Most of the time when you post a comment here, that comment should appear instantly. However, to keep out the spam FB&G gets bombarded with, I have some filters set up, and they do a pretty good job. That said, the filter occasionally catches legitimate comments as well, holding them over for me to approve, something that can happen pretty quickly if I’m at my computer but may take a while one weekends or whatever. To give you an example, if you use the word “poker” in a comment, it will get flagged (a lot of poker site spam comes through). There is a long list of words and other things that can flag a comment. So, just know it’s nothing personal and I try to get to your held-up comments as fast as I can. I’m not trying to limit debate, just keep it civil and ad free.

Midseason Report Card

Kurt —  January 25, 2006

The Lakers have played 41 games, exactly half the season, and if you had told me before the season their record would have been 22-19, I would have taken it. I think things will improve in the second half, but this is the perfect chance to do a mid-season breakdown. We’ll look at the team management, offense and defense today. Individual players get broken out tomorrow.

Team Management/Coaching — B

Phil Jackson is getting as much out of this roster as a coach can, but he doesn’t have a deep roster to work with.

Therein lies what you see with the Lakers — Kobe having to take on a high percentage of the team’s scoring because the other players can’t be counted on to do so consistently; the more intent focus on defense, which has seemed to laps lately; the second youngest roster in the league; inconsistency.

The key to the coaching end of the equation will be detailed a little farther down —Jackson has this team playing defense (we expected the offense to come around). Last season the Lakers played mediocre man defense (insert your own Chucky Atkins joke here) but the biggest problem was the rotations. Or, more accurately, the lack of them. This season you see big guys doing a better job of picking up guys in the lane, Chris Mihm is getting blocks and Brian Cook is taking charges. The Lakers are longer out top and that is bothering teams.

When you looked at this team on paper before the season it seemed mismatched on offense, but Jackson and crew have done a good job of getting players to fit the system and adjusting the system to fit players. They’ve convinced Kwame Brown to try to be a poor man’s Dennis Rodman, defending and grabbing boards (how good he is at that role is another question) and get some points in the paint. Guys like Smush Parker and Cook are finding their space in the triangle. One change from previous years is that before Phil would be willing to lose a game to let his team learn a lesson — I think back in, say, 2001 he would have benched Kobe rather than let him go for 81 and let the rest of the players learn to step up. But back then there was no question the team would make the playoffs, so the goal was to be at your best for the postseason. Now, wins are at a premium, and if Kobe has to be a one-man show to get a win, so be it.

That mismatched roster falls in part on Jim Buss, Mitch K. and the rest of the front office. Their made the choice to make cap space down the line the priority and left holes in the current lineup as the price. They drafted Andrew Bynum, who may well work out, but the fact they have had to depend on him this year as a raw 18-year-old speaks to the lack of depth up front. They took a risk on Kwame Brown, trading valuable assets on the market in Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins to get him. I questioned at the time if that was the best they could get for that valuable a trading chip, but they hoped Brown would finally fulfill his potential. Brown is starting, but he’s basically putting up the same quality of numbers he did in Washington (more on him tomorrow). They have a direction and some building blocks, but as of now they have a ways to go make this a well-rounded roster.

Team Defense — B-

Back in mid-December, the Lakers had a defensive rating of 104.5 (points per 100 opponent possessions) and that was in the top 10 in the league. It was a huge step forward for a team whose rating was 107 last season, 29th in the league.

But the reason for the B- grade is that as of right now the Lakers have a defensive rating of 106.2, 16th in the league. In the last 10 games, that rating is 107.9 — the Lakers are 7-3 in that stretch but it is thanks to the offense (in case you missed it, Kobe’s playing pretty well right now).

That said, the Lakers are still much better defensively than last year. That starts out top, where Smush Parker has been everything Chucky Atkins was not — he’s long, he moves his feet and he defends the three. That has been one key: teams are shooting just 32.6% from beyond the arc against the Lakers, the second lowest percentage in the league. Sasha Vujacic deserves some credit for playing solid defense off the bench most nights.

That said, point guard is still the weakest defensive spot for the Lakers, opponents average a PER of 18 against the Lakers, basically the equivalent of the opponent starting point guard having a Barron Davis or Mike James quality night every night.

The biggest problem with the Lakers last year was they didn’t create turnovers — only 12.5% of opponent possessions ended in a turnover last season, dead last in the league. This season that is up to 15.5%, 24th in the league. However, this is a key part of the recent defensive slide — in the last 10 games the Lakers have created turnovers on 12.1% of opponent possessions.

Another positive is that guys are rotating now. That was really the big problem with the Lakers defense last year — make a couple passes and other teams got a good look. Last year team’s shot 49.2% (eFG%) against the Lakers, this season that is down to 47.4%.

The bottom line — the defense is better than last year but needs to be an area of focus again.

Team Offense — B

While the defense has been sliding backwards, the offense has been getting better. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) The team is getting more used to the triangle; 2) Kobe.

Right now the Lakers have an offensive rating of 107.8 (points per 100 opponent possessions), 11th best in the league. That compares pretty well to last season — the Lakers finished with an offensive rating of 104.8, seventh best in the league. Look at it this way — last season the Lakers’ rating was 1.6 points higher than the league median, this season they are 1 point higher.

The reason for the B grade is the often-discussed need for consistency and balance outside of Kobe Bryant. Part of this is the roster — are we really going to expect Smush and Luke Walton to be an offensive force every night? — but part of it is just players not yet feeling comfortable in the offense. At the heart of this consistency issue is Lamar Odom, a nightly matchup nightmare for the opponents who takes nights off. Some have tried to lay this at the feet of Kobe, saying he doesn’t get Lamar involved, but watch the games and you see Lamar has his chances, he just seems to pass them up some nights. He is the one Laker who needs to get his shots and score nightly, who needs not to defer to Kobe every trip down. He does that, but only in spurts.

As for the Kobe 81 (and 62 before that), I think Phil put it well in the LA Times today, there can’t be a steady diet of that and the responsibilty to ensure balance belongs to everyone.

“The onus is on Kobe to stay inside the team offense,” Jackson (said). “The onus is on the players to pick it up a little bit better. The onus is on me to provide players out there that can help [win]. The onus is on the general manager to provide players that are a good enough talent. There’s onus on everybody.”

One quick note about the lineups —the standard starting five (Smush, Kobe, Odom, Brown and Mihm) beats the players it is matched up against 47% of the time. However, remove Kwame and put in Cook and that improves to 63.6%. Put Devean Geroge in the Kwame spot and that five beats its matchup 60% of the time. Put Walton in the Kwame spot and it jumps to 64.2%. Draw your own conclusions.

What keeps the Lakers going is Kobe’s Jack Bauer-like confidence, which sometimes the other players feed off of, but sometimes simply defer to. For the Lakers to make the playoffs, it is the cast around Kobe that must put down roots and grow despite being in his shadow.

The 80s Are Hot Again

Kurt —  January 24, 2006

Update: Want to see all of Kobe’s 81 points in just three minutes? Well, it’s all right here (thanks to Henry at True Hoop for finding this).

Well Bill “Sports Guy” Simmons is even happy now. He still misses the point at times (read down a few paragraphs) but he feels vindicated. That’s good, as a professional writer, I’m sure his self-esteem could use the occasional boost.

I think we’re all still stunned and amazed at the 81 — in Vegas, the city where football (well, really football betting) is king, Kobe and his 81 were the story on top of the sports page Monday morning. I’m not sure what I can say that would add to all that has been said, but I’ll point you to (and comment on) what other people have been saying.

I think this may be the biggest thing — Kobe’s 81 got the most egotistical and hardest to tolerate newspaper columnist in LA (and there is a heated competition for the title) to admit he was wrong.

Great breakdown
, as you would expect, over at Hoopsanalyst.

If you want to own the 81 points Kobe scored — not just the video of the game, the actual points (in liquid form) — here is where you can bid for them.

If you have ESPN Insider, check out the John Hollinger piece comparing Kobe’s 81 to Wilt’s 100 — he’s thinks Kobe’s is more impressive. I’m not going to give away a bunch of stuff they want you to pay to see, but I will point out this: Hollinger estimates there were about 46 more possessions in the Wilt game than the Laker game the other night, figure Kobe’s points using the same number of possessions Wilt had and Kobe goes for 118.

Phil Jackson said in the Daily News, “To be honest with you, that’s not exactly the way you want to have a team win a game. But when you have to win a game, it’s great to be able to have that weapon to do it with.” He’s right, the Lakers will need better play out of the rest of the team if they are going to make the playoffs. But it sure is fun to watch.

Back to Simmons for a second, he spends a paragraph talking about how Kobe’s ball hogging must be driving Lamar Odom nuts. Two quick thoughts: 1) as has been shown before, Lamar Odom is playing better when Kobe is on the floor; 2) Lamar gets plenty of chances every game to make himself a key part of the offense, he only takes advantage of them about every other game.

Really though, I think the guys at yaysports.com said it best.

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If you were the coach of Golden State, New York, Indiana or one of the other teams coming up on the Laker schedule, wouldn’t you be working on a defense that would strive to keep the ball out of Kobe’s hands and double him the second the ball swings to his side of the court?

The theory of “let Kobe have his and stop everyone else” works only if you have a defender who can at least make Kobe work for his points and slow him a little. Detroit has that, the Raptors did not. Sure, all the Raptors said after the game they tried to stop Kobe, but let’s be honest, they are not the NBA’s most athletic or talented team, and combine that with Kobe shooting 74% (true shooting percentage) there’s no way you’re going to stop him completely.

Other teams know they need to slow him down, how long is it before that is the first, second and third goal of the opponents — “Don’t let Kobe beat you, force Lamar to do it.” Can he? Can he night in and night out? What about Smush, Mihm and the rest of the Kobettes?

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One off topic Vegas note. Let’s say you’re not really a musical theater guy. Let’s say you’re in Vegas and you want to take your wife/girlfriend/hooker you want to impress to a show one night, but you’re dreading it. Allow me make a suggestion — Avenue Q, playing at the Wynn. Fair warning, tickets are not cheap by anyone but Bill Gates’ standards. But if your significant other (or significant other for the night) wants an evening of culture, just tell her this won the Tony for best musical a couple years ago. It did. But trust me, this is not like the versions of Carousel or South Pacific you had to sit through in high school. This has some songs you can relate to.